The Games We Play

September 11, 2009 § 2 Comments

In Sociology of Gender class yesterday, we had a heated discussion of whether Super Mario Bros. is a gendered game. It was fascinating for me because of my love for the Nintendo franchise as well as my penchant for reading about video game culture. A male student argued that the Super Mario Bros. games are gender neutral, but my teacher pointed out that Princess Peach simply sits around waiting for Mario to rescue her.

Other female students went on to talk about how nobody wanted to pick Peach in Mario Kart because she was the slowest and weakest one, to which a couple of male students objected, saying that Peach was actually one of the fastest.

Frankly, one of the reasons I love Nintendo is because I’ve always felt that it’s more girl-friendly. I’m not saying that as an objective or true statement; it’s simply the feeling I’ve gotten because I love Mario Kart, Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. and never felt alienated by them like I did while watching boys play Call of Duty or Warcraft.

It is indeed true that female characters have been shafted in Super Mario — Peach can hold her own in more recent games, but in the old school Mario Bros. [and even in titles like Super Mario Sunshine], she was pretty much a victim. I never really noticed as a child, but it’s just another example of socialization of traditional gender roles.

With the Mario Kart comments, however, it is quite clear that those girls [and their playmates] never even tried using Princess Peach before jumping to the conclusion that she wasn’t as effective because of her gender. In actuality, Peach is a very good character choice not only in Mario Kart but also in Mario Tennis, Mario Party and Super Smash Bros., to name a few — she’s my first choice for all of those games.

It’s apparent that those people had been socialized to see Peach as weak because of her gender, which is unfortunate as well as sexist. In some video games that I’ve played, such as wrestling, the female characters are rather terrible, but I will defend Princess Peach to the very end.

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